DERUYTER – Located among the rolling hills and forests just northwest of Chenango County and east of DeRuyter on Mariposa Road, rests a Hughes UH-1 helicopter.
And it’s not alone, as this particular “Huey chopper” – known historically for its role as a gunship or to provide rocket artillery during the Vietnam War – stands surrounded by various other memorials dedicated to the United States military, as well as the victims, police officers, firemen and emergency service personnel who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Every branch of the military is represented, according to Vietnam veteran Bill Middleton, who – along with wife Gloria – created the memorial site. The helicopter, donated by the U.S. government, stands on a small piece of property leased to the DeRuyter American Legion, post 834.
“It’s a testament to the bravery of our soldiers,” said Middleton of the memorial, which he and his wife maintain. “We didn’t know what else to do with [the property]. I do all the groundwork myself.”
The site is also a reminder of the cost of war, which Middleton knows all too well. Drafted on Dec. 7, 1954, he was a member of the United States Army’s 1st Calvary Division in 1965. In November of that year, U.S. troops – including Middleton – took part in the first major battle between American soldiers and the North Vietnamese Army in the Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam.